How health and wellness startups in India are overcoming product development challenges and becoming mass-manufacturing ready
Developing a functional prototype is a key milestone in a hardware startup’s journey. The next challenge thereafter is gearing up for a market launch and developing a market-ready product that can be produced in thousands.
It is here that Qualcomm Design in India Challenge (QDIC) has played a key role in enabling startups with technology and mentorship support to address key product development challenges and make them mass-manufacturing ready. We bring to you how QDIC, in its fifth year, has been able to support four health and wellness startups, part of the latest cohort, in their product development journey as they work towards creating impact.
“Adiuvo is addressing the global problem of acute, chronic, and traumatic wounds which affects more than 420 million people. The problem is even more accentuated in developing countries like India, where there is no established wound management protocol leading to prolonged diagnosis, increase in treatment cost and hospital stay, delay in wound closure, amputation and even mortality,” shares Geethanjali Radhakrishnan, CEO & MD at Adiuvo Diagnostics.
Adiuvo Diagnostics has developed a patented multispectral imaging technique, combined with AI-enabled engines, to aid reagentless rapid diagnosis that can be applied across a range of diseases - from infections to cancer. ‘Illuminate®’ is one such novel screening device that can non-invasively detect and classify pathogens on wounds in under two minutes as opposed to the standard culture method which takes upto a week for a definitive result. Illuminate® makes treatment affordable and ensures that the first-line treatment is accurate.
Having received significant interest from government and private hospitals, the startup was looking to design the product for mass manufacturing and scale up. Its selection into QDIC provided the perfect opportunity. For mass-manufacturing, Adivo integrated the Qualcomm Snapdragon 660 (SD660) - a fast mid-range ARM-based SoC. “SD660 helps connect different imaging components and sensors required to achieve multispectral imaging. It gives us the flexibility to programme and add any new functionalities easily,” shares Geethanjali. Adiuvo is now working towards piloting its devices across India and also obtaining regulatory certifications such as the CE/MDR for marketing outside India. “We are also looking to accelerate our R&D efforts to downstream applications using the same technology.”
The increasing focus on yoga and meditation has led to the mushrooming of online yoga content across web and mobile apps. While these have their merits, they fall short in driving tangible impact. It is here that a solution like YogiFi becomes relevant - a smart yoga mat combined with a smartphone app coupled with online and offline yoga class experience. YogiFi helps users to practice yoga with real-time assistance on asanas (postures) and breathing. Users are offered personalised wellness programs based on their goals, limitations and past history and the sessions are curated based on the insightful data and various metrics gathered from the mat: strength, alignment, flexibility and endurance. Users can now understand the effectiveness of the yoga session with vitals data correlated from popular wearables. “Our mission is to integrate yoga and meditation seamlessly into everyone’s daily habit with interactive and immersive user experience,” says Muralidhar Somisetty, Co-Founder, Wellnesys, the startup behind YogiFi.
2020 saw the startup soft launching YogiFi Series-1 and winning global awards and recognition. The year also saw the startup getting selected for the QDIC 2020 cohort. He says, “Shortlisting for QDIC 2020 happened when the development of the first production version of YogiFi around a consumer grade SoM was in progress. The programme helped us to fine tune the product and make it robust for mass manufacturing.” By November, the startup successfully rolled out YogiFi Series-1. “We have also completed the set-up of a production line for mass manufacturing and shipment across the world,” shares Muralidhar. In addition to tech support, the workshops organised as part of QDIC were a key business enabler. “The workshops covered various aspects of business – intellectual property, branding, pricing and pitching. We have been able to apply the learnings in our product, business, customer experience management and of course fine tune our pitch to the investors.” The startup has also taken advantage of QDIC IP generation incentive to file one patent and is in the process of filing the second patent as well.
Blood transfusion has been identified as one of the eight key life-saving functions in comprehensive emergency obstetric care. However, availability of safe blood in the rural areas is a key challenge especially due to the challenge in reliable cold chains for logistics and storage. ”The proper maintenance of cold chains is important to keep the blood components reliable for transfusion. At present, the temperature of blood products is not recorded during logistics. Infusion of the corrupted blood leads to hemolytic reactions which are severe and life-threatening. Another challenge is wastage of blood because of lack of communication between the blood storage centres and blood banks,” shares Ashfaq Ashraf, Co-Founder, Bagmo. The startup is on a mission to address the key bottlenecks in the blood supply chain in India’s rural areas to eliminate avoidable maternal mortality and morbidity. Bagmo is building a blood bank information system - an innovative patent pending technology for the blood supply chain. “We have developed the Bagmo blood bag monitoring solution that offers simple quality assurance for blood temperature during storage and transport environment.”
While having deployed one product variant in the market as a beta product, the startup was parallelly working towards making its products mass manufacturing ready when it got selected into the QDIC programme. The programme was instrumental in accelerating the efforts in that direction. “The Qualcomm team and mentors helped us complete the prototype and prepare the design for manufacturing with help from external mentors. Integrating the Qualcomm-based chips has made the design manufacturing-ready today,” says Ashfaq. He adds, “We are using Qualcomm's EC25 development kit at the moment. Even though we are using only a small part of its capabilities, we believe that in the long run we can parallelly develop new enhancements to our product using this platform's extra capabilities.”
Bagmo has now entered into a collaboration with another startup to provide vaccine logistics management and cold chain monitoring solutions - which is a simplified version of its existing blood bag monitoring solution. Bagmo plans to leverage this expertise to launch a COVID-19 vaccine monitoring solution.
Nemocare Wellness is a startup that is working towards addressing preventable neonatal and maternal deaths in the developing world with innovative affordable, accessible and highly accurate monitoring solutions. Manoj Sanker, Co-Founder, Nemocare Wellness, explains that the deaths are often a result of the inability to identify many distress conditions in premature infants in a timely manner, given that most hospitals outside metros do not have high-end technology.
Nemocare has developed an easy to use, wearable device that wraps around the foot and monitors six main vital signs, 24x7. Called Raksha, the device’s back-end deep learning algorithm analyses vital signs and gives accurate notifications and alerts to healthcare workers to enable timely intervention when a distress condition is detected. The device and algorithms are patent-pending. “With the device, a hospital can quickly convert any of its beds into an ICU bed. The simple and easy-to-use design allows it to be immediately deployable in a clinical setting. A diagnostic and scoring tool of this kind has the potential to enable a paradigm shift in clinical diagnostics, decrease unnecessary antibiotic exposure, reduce health care costs, minimise antibiotic resistance, and lead to better health outcomes for neonates through a data driven approach,” says Manoj.
Given that the startup’s primary customers are small scale hospitals, doctors in the Tier 2 and 3 towns and government-owned hospitals, Nemocare was looking towards bringing down the price of the product offering as a bundled setup. The startup had its alpha prototype in place, completed the clinical validation and was heading into a scale-up study. “As part of QDIC, we are developing an IoT gateway/hub using Qualcomm platforms that will increase computation power, decrease energy consumption at node level (wearable ) and drastically decrease cost by enabling a many-to-one node-to-hub to cloud architecture with a use case in newborn distress management. This will help in making the product accessible and thereby ensure that we are able to cater to saving lives across economic strata without barriers.” The startup is also working on a B2C segment product offering along with an app to aid new parents.